Reading for Thursday, Jan. 19: John 14
In John 14, we are approaching the final hours of Jesus’ life prior to the cross. This teaching is so rich — John brings us into these intimate encounters Jesus has with His disciples. John doesn’t record the communion observance like we find in the other Gospels; instead, he gives us a glimpse of what this communal experience looked like as the disciples experience Jesus washing their feet, teaching them, encouraging them, and finally praying over them.
I love that Jesus begins this section with words of comfort: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” Faith is not merely some kind of mental enterprise, seeking all the answers to all our spiritual questions. Faith is the connection of both mind AND heart, a balm for both confused minds and troubled hearts. Jesus knows that the next few hours and days are going to be a whirlwind for these followers. He is encouraging them to hold fast in their faith, even as He lays down His life. He wants them to trust in the promise of the Father’s house (v2) and His role in preparing this place for them.
V6 is another of those landmark passages: “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” The word for “way” means path, road, journey, a manner of life, a way of being. So Jesus stands as our path to God. The way we come to God is the same way that God comes to us — through Jesus. As Jesus says to Philip, if you’ve seen me then you’ve seen the Father (v9). But He also shows us the way of being, the way to truly live. He shows us not only who God is, but He also shows us what it means to truly be human. Humanity lives in dependent relationship with God: before He breathes life into our nostrils, we’re nothing more than dirt and earth. Jesus comes to earth, willingly lays down His life, and trusts God completely to raise Him from the dead. Ephesians 1.20 tells us that God the Father raised Christ from the dead. Although Jesus was in very nature God (Phil 2), he empties himself, makes himself nothing and humbles himself by becoming obedient to the point of death. He stands as the Way for us, the truest embodiment of human life dependent completely upon God.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on vv13-14: “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” What does it mean to ask in the name of Jesus? How do we apply this verse in our own lives?
I had a discussion recently with a friend about how we often co-opt God in our language for our own purposes. It seems that discerning God’s activity in our lives is more complicated than we’d like sometimes. Yet, we want to affirm that God is at work, God is leading, God is telling us what to do or how to be. Even though I’m skeptical of some of this kind of talk — some of it is bound to be off base, in my opinion — we’re still left with this teaching of Jesus, a promise to be active and present in our lives when we ask for things in His name. This is still a bit of a mystery to me, but it seems that part of “asking in My name” is seeking those things that align with the will of God. Jesus seems to be promising to be quick to act when we decisively pursue God and His Kingdom.
I love how the promise of the Holy Spirit stands as proof that Jesus has not abandoned these disciples as orphans. This Helper will guide the disciples in all truth and remembrance pertaining to Jesus (v26). As we saw in 12.16, the disciples didn’t piece it all together in the moment; it was the work of the Spirit to increase their understanding. And that’s my prayer for us as we read and study as well.